Italian scientists claim they have invented a method for carrying out a head transplant - a discovery that could prove life-changing for patients suffering from hitherto incurable diseases.
Boffins at the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group claim to have devised a new way to connect the brain to the spinal column.
The technique is useful for anyone who wants a new head - which might prove a bit difficult to enjoy - or fancies a new body. It draws upon the research of Robert White, who in 1970 transplanted of the head of one rhesus monkey onto the body of another. Sadly, the monkeys didn't live for very long with their new heads in place, but the Italian researchers are optimistic nonetheless.
Dr Sergio Canavero of the University of Turin, said that a "clean cut" was needed with a super-sharp blade. If this is done correctly, he believes it is already possible to join a brain to a body.
He said: "It is my contention that the technology only now exists for such linkage, fusing the two spinal cords together with an inorganic polymer 'glue'."
Budding Igors looking to fit a new head on a deserving friend or loved one should first cool their noggin and spine down to 18°C (who said the hunchbacked assistant can't do the difficult stuff), before making a very clean cut to the end of each section of spinal cord. Next up, you'll drain the blood from the head, induce a heart attack in the body and then join the two bits of spine together using the polymer "glue". Simples.
It's been successful in both guinea pigs and dogs, the latter-day Frankenstein researcher said, so there's no reason why humans shouldn't be next. The treatment has the potential to change the lives of people affected by paralysis or other serious mobility-limiting medical conditions.
Canavero added: "The greatest technical hurdle to [a head transplant] is, of course, the reconnection of the donor’s and recipient's spinal cords. Several up-to-now hopeless medical conditions might benefit from such a procedure.”
Last month, researchers at Cleveland University managed to heal rats with broken spines, allowing them to control their bladders once again. The doctors successfully encouraged nerves to grow between two fractured sections of spine.
The head transplant research was published in the journal Surgical Neurology International. ®
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